Chapman's whale oil refinery

Specifications

Time Frame: 4 Weeks Half-time

Genre: FPS

Engine: Unreal Engine 4.26

Additional Tools: Blender, Adobe Photoshop

Inspiration: The Dishonored Franchise

Goals

  • Recreating the Core game play Loop of Dishonored

  • Recreating mobility abilities from Dishonored

  • Create a non-linear gameplay experience

  • Create multiple solutions to every objective

  • Create a level that encourages different playstyles

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Overview

This project is inspired by the Dishonored Games Series and takes place in an imaginary location within that universe.

 

The Focus is Multiple-solutions to any problem the player may encounter as well as subverting the traditional flow of a level by introducing a great deal of verticality and non-clear paths to reach any goal.

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Multiple Playstyles

The main appeal of the Dishonored series has always been player choice when approaching each obstacle

With Chapman's Oil, i attempt to do the same by designing the level in a way where any play-style, or mix of play-styles to find a solution to every objective in the game.

Mechanics

The dishonored franchise has always boasted vast player mobility, as such I've chosen to recreate the star of the franchises traversal options using UE4's blueprints.

The blink mechanic allows for great player movement and allows for an additional layer of complexity in level-design, putting a large emphasis on the vertically, and multi-altitude traversal

The Process
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Gathering References

My first order of business is always to gathering reference images, familiarising myself with the reference material, get a feel for the setting and the architectural style

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Pre-Production

Once i have a solid base to work from, it's time to move on to napkin designs, these are usually just quick dirty designs, getting a rough idea of how i want the level layout to be. once i find a design that sticks, i polish it to a state where i can quickly throw together a Rough blockout and get a feel for it

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Rough Blockout

Rough blockout is where the biggest iterations happen, taking the design and making it into a traversable level helps showcase any over sites and lets us get a feel for the verticality.

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Refined Blockout

Moving onto the Refined Blockout, I make sure that all of the important elements are there, the Player paths are clear and functional and the metrics are finalised

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Whiteboxing

This is the final step before turning over the level to the art team. At this point I added all of the important elements in the level, made sure that we lead the player subtly, the sight-lines are clear, and the important details of the level are

visible and ready to be replaced with actual meshes

Multiple Paths
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Player choice has always been the focus of every dishonoured level, as such every level offers multiple solutions to appeal to as many Play styles as possible. With this project i aim to do the same, every section of the level has anywhere between 3-5 unique paths.

 

This following following section will showcase some of the paths the player can chose in the initial part of the level.

Run & Gun

The Run & Gun approach focuses on fast paced action and Gun play. Dealing with the guards quickly is essential as not to become overwhelmed by the enemy forces.

The player has to contemplate the Risk & Reward of this approach as alerting the guards causes more to join the action.

Distract & Avoid

Stealth and distractions is always viable option, luring the guards away from key objectives and sneaking around them.

This approach heavily favours players that focus on exploration as finding new paths and things to use as distractions facilitates a safer way to approach the objective

Parkour

With the focus on verticality, and the access to the iconic blink ability the player will always be able to approach any objective from a new angle, as long as they use the environment to their advantage

Underground

Sometimes the best approach is to go "under the radar" the player can utilise the sewer system under the factories to get in or get out relatively unseen.

Just make sure not to get spotted when leaving the manhole

The level flow
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The level follows the classic 3-act structure. With the importance of Player agency in games, This levels aims to let players approach each act in any way they see fit, and by doing so also let them make informed choices of how the rest of the level will play out. Long story short, Cause a lot of chaos and you'll draw a lot of attention, sneak in and you might have an easier time at getting out

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Act 1 - Harbor

The first act is all about familiarising oneself with the surroundings, and finding a way past the light wall, either by disabling it or by avoiding it entirely

The act itself is mostly played out in a small harbour on an artificial island connecting to the larger city by drawbridge small shops and apparent complexes.

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Act 2 - Refinery

During the second act the player is tasked with gaining entrance to the mansion.

Throughout the level, hints are given about the refinery being responsible for providing power to the mansion, meaning that if the supply of whale oil is cut, the light walls would go down.

The player is given the option to peruse that objective or try to find a different way of entering the building, such as the air ducts, or guns blazing through the front door.

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Act 3 - Mansion

The third and final act, the two story mansion is all about locating the target, eliminating them, and making a safe escape.

Depending on the route and player choices thus far, the target may be either on high alert surrounded by guards bunkering up in their office, or simply walking around the mansion sneaking a snack from the kitchen unaware of their impending doom

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Final Thoughts

Looking back at this project, I feel like every step of the way has been a learning experience, issues that I didn’t even think of at the start needed solving, and each added layer of complexity, such as the blink ability or stealth kills required me to go back and completely rethink a lot of the areas.

After letting players test the level for me, I gained valuable insight in how and why many of the levels in Dishonoured are built the way they are, why the distances between building are slightly exaggerated, or why the building are so tall and have large windows, a lot of these things can be explained when looking at the player mobility options and how important it is to both give the player freedom of movement yet still make sure that the game cannot be easily broken by teleporting above everything.

Although I am happy with how far I’ve come and the resulting level, if given the opportunity I would love to come back into this project or something similar. Given everything I’ve learned these past weeks i would like to see how far I could take this kind of experience given not only a couple of weeks but a couple of months instead.
The underground section is one of those moments I'd really like to redesign, the initial plan for it was that it would be a more fleshed out, more complex system with its own set of puzzles, but as is commonly said in this line of work, sometimes you’ve got to
kill your darlings and prioritise polishing what’s seen by the largest portion of the audience

GALLERY